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#pounditThursday, March 30, 2023

20 NFL free agent signings who have paid off most this season

Josh McCown

10. Tre Boston, S, Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers signed Boston to a one-year, $900,000 million contract in the later stages of free agency, and there was no guarantee he’d even make the team. Not only did he make the team and earn a starting role, but Boston has also played better than many anticipated in 2017. Through 13 games, he’s recorded 63 tackles (46 solo), seven passes defensed and four interceptions to go along with an 82.9 PFF grade.

9. Jabaal Sheard, EDGE, Indianapolis Colts

Sheard played relatively well during his time with the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, but he wasn’t exactly considered a premier free agent when he signed a three-year, $25.5 million deal with the Colts this offseason. Despite that, Sheard has put together a career-year on film, earning an 89.7 grade courtesy of PFF, which puts him in the top 10 league-wide. He has 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 13 games this season. His numbers may not leap off the stat sheet, but his tape certainly does.

8. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

After two down seasons in Chicago, Jeffery signed a one-year, $14 million prove-it deal with the Eagles and essentially proved it midway through the season, earning an extension. And while his numbers don’t erupt off the stat sheet, Jeffery has reestablished himself as a red-zone threat, scoring eight touchdowns in 13 games this season. He’s also hauled in 52 receptions for 732 yards.

7. A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

It was widely expected that A.J. Bouye was ascending as a player and would establish himself as one of the premier cornerbacks in football, which is why the Jaguars signed him to a five-year, $67.5 million deal. Ultimately, that appears to be money well spent as Bouye has earned a 89.3 grade from PFF to go along with his 45 tackles (43 solo), 16 passes defensed and six interceptions while turning the Jags’ defense into a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

6. Josh McCown, QB, New York Jets

When the Jets signed McCown to a one-year, $6 million deal, no one knew what they’d be getting. It was never guaranteed McCown would start or even play, and if he did, there were questions about what sort of product would be put on the field. With only one or two wins expected on the season, McCown helped Gang Green exceed those expectations by completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,926 yards and 23 total touchdowns (18 passing, five rushing). Unfortunately a broken hand will end his season, but that won’t keep us from recognizing how well he played in 2017.

5. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Los Angeles Rams

The common perception entering free agency was that no quality offensive linemen were available, and more specifically, none would come at a decent price. The Rams signed Whitworth to a three-year, $33.75 million deal, which seemed fair for the market. After 14 weeks of the regular season, that now seems like a bargain. Whitworth has been a lock at tackle for Los Angeles and is graded out (82.9) as one of the best tackles in all of football courtesy of PFF.

4. Zach Brown, LB, Washington Redskins

PFF may not be high on Brown this season, grading him out at 50.9, but his one-year, $2.3 million deal wasn’t overly risky and he’s certainly earned every penny of that thus far. Brown leads the NFL with 177 tackles through 14 weeks, and 84 of those have been solo tackles. He’s added 2.5 sacks, two passes defensed and a career-high 12 stuffs. Brown’s game may not be an A+ all the way around, and he’s dealing with a foot injury, but considering the minimal investment, Washington hit a home run.

3. Micah Hyde, CB, Buffalo Bills

The Bills signed Hyde to a five-year, $30.5 million this offseason that essentially has an out after year three. The contract was heavily front-loaded in terms of yearly cash, so there was some concern about the deal. However, Hyde has erased those concerns by playing quite well this season, earning a PFF grade of 83.2 and recording 65 tackles (54 solo), 11 passes defensed and five interceptions in 13 games.

2. Calais Campbell, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have used a ton of resources to build up their defense in recent years, and that didn’t change when they signed Calais Campbell to a four-year, $60 million contract this offseason. Given his age and career production, it seemed like a potentially risky move for Jacksonville. However, Campbell has made that gamble pay off in a huge way, recording 47 tackles (33) solo, three forced fumbles and a career-high 12.5 sacks in 13 games.

1. Jason McCourty, CB, Cleveland Browns

When the Browns signed McCourty to a two-year, $6 million deal during free agency, they weren’t entirely sure what they were going to get. But it was a low-risk, high-reward type of move and it ended up paying huge dividends. McCourty revitalized his career in Cleveland and has established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the game. In 11 games this season, McCourty has recorded 51 tackles (43 solo), 12 passes defensed, three interceptions and one touchdown. He also has a PFF grade of nearly 90.0.

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